Get Active and Healthy for National Minority Health Month
Only 1 in 4 adults meet physical activity guidelines for aerobic and muscle-strengthening activities. This number is even lower among adults and youth in some racial and ethnic minority populations.
Physical activity is one of the best things you can do to prevent chronic diseases, including arthritis, diabetes, heart disease, and obesity.
If you have a chronic disease, physical activity can reduce related health difficulties such as fatigue, muscle weakness, stiffness, and joint pain.
Physical activity can also improve mental health, sleep, and how well you function during the day.
Unfortunately, most Americans are sedentary-spending most of their day sitting or standing in one place.
Two common reasons that people don't get enough physical activity are:
- Trouble finding time to exercise
- Fear of increasing pain related to chronic diseases, such as arthritis (1,2)
Here are 5 ways to start improving your physical activity:
1. Participate in the Active & Healthy Challenge
April is National Minority Health Month. The US Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health is encouraging everyone, especially racial and ethnic minorities, to be active and healthy by forming teams to participate in their month-long activity challenge Active & Healthy Challenge to increase your physical activity, improve your health, and reduce health disparities.
2. Start small
The updated Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommend that sedentary adults get at least 22 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity (activity in which you are breathing hard, but can still have a conversation easily) each day and muscle strengthening activities 2 times per week. You can get this amount of physical activity in many ways, even small 2-minute increments of aerobic activity that increase your heart rate and make you breathe faster count. Interrupting sitting every 30 minutes with 3 minutes of light activity (such as leg extensions, side bending, and standing) can significantly improve blood sugar control to reduce your risk of diabetes (3).
3. Move when you usually sit or stand
Just because your TV sits in one place doesn't mean you can't move while watching your favorite show. By stepping in place while watching TV, you can achieve 3,000 to 4,000 steps every 90 minutes. (4) You can even do simple leg-strengthening exercises, such as squats and heel raises while brushing your teeth each day.
4. Increase the intensity of common activities
Make the most of the movement you do already by turning it into moderate-intensity exercise (breathing hard, but still able to have a conversation easily). Everyday activities like walking across a parking lot, cleaning your home, or playing with a child are great opportunities for physical activity.
5. Get help from a physical therapist
Physical therapists are movement experts who optimize quality of life through prescribed exercise, hands-on care, and patient education. A physical therapist can help you gradually increase your physical activity and help you with aches, pains, weakness, or injuries. Visit Find a PT to locate a physical therapist near you.
1. Zoveen S, Tiro J, Shuval K. Understanding impediments and enablers to physical activity among African American adults: a systematic review of qualitative studies. Health Educ Research. 2011:26(6):1010.
2. Exercise is essential for osteoarthritis: the many benefits of physical activity. J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 2018;48(6):448
3. Steeves J, Bassett D, Fitzhugh E, Raynor H, Thompson D. Can sedentary behavior be made more active? A randomized pilot study of TV commercial stepping versus walking. Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act. 2012:6(9):95.
4. Colberg S, Sigal R, Yardley J, Riddell M, Dunstan D, et al. Physical activity/exercise and diabetes: a position statement of the American Diabetes Association. Diabetes Care. 2016:39(11):2065.
Authored by Gina Pariser, PT, PhD